On Basilisk Station by David Weber

On Basilisk Station

Read November 2015
Recommended for fans of  military sci-fi
 ★    ★    1/2

broken finger review #3:

first of all, people, i wanted to call this the ‘one-handed review series,’ as i’m typing entirely with one hand (at one point, my prior rate was over 100 words a minute, so maybe you can feel my pain), but i know you people and that is just asking for trouble.

that said, this is david weber’s first entry into a series about captain picard honor harrington, a kick-ass woman in the royal navy that has the ice-queen routine down pat. except for her empathetic cat–i said, stop it. she doesn’t think she’s beautiful, being so tall and strong from a high-grav planet, but pretty much everyone else admires the almond eyes and short brown curly hair and sees a regal ice goddess. thank goodness–i just hate vain heroines, amirite? we know she’s stunning, especially when she’s being all authoratative, because lots of other people tell us so (hello, male gaze. literally).

she’s just been made captain of some class of spaceship or another, although a bureaucrat has made disturbing weapons modifications that seem to cripple their offense. the first mate is envious. they kick ass in a war maneuver and are promptly demoted to a forgotten corner of the realm, assigned to be TSA and Customs. the current commander there hates her because (view spoiler), so he bales back home on a flimsy pretext and leaves her with the mess. harrington and elderly Dame Kick-Ass decide it is time for order, so harrington starts enforcing rules and pissing off every smuggler in the galaxy.

so. plotting fairly predictable. pace had potential but was interrupted by long info-dumps about weapons, cruisers, military strategy, and a whole bunch of stuff about physics that i skimmed over, because vicodin brain don’t care (just like honey badger)

acceptable but ethnocentric world-building of weird non-bipedal aliens (savages, the lot). really didn’t move discussion of political protectorates beyond surface level.

i liked the building of camaraderie, because everybody loves star trek when the team comes together (i believe she actually had a ‘make it so’ line). the ending… i feel was a problem. character–kind of fun, but generic. weber jumps into various character heads at times for more thinkingness and to create tension not achieved by info-dumps.

so, how do you rate a book like this? i enjoyed the sections i read, but brain mostly turned off and i skimmed a lot. call it a 2.25.

About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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9 Responses to On Basilisk Station by David Weber

  1. neotiamat says:

    Now here’s a blast from the past. I read this back when I was in high school, I think when there were only a few books out (which dates me rather accurately). It’s one of those series that I enjoyed at the time, but look back and find it hard to say anything nice about. Disclaimer: I’m making this comment from memory.

    I think the issue is that Weber is, in fact, a good writer. He has a clear, lucid style, and he knows his way around a dramatic action scene. His characterization is solid, and he makes the world seem attractive and enticing.

    The problem is that everything else is really, really generic. The characters hue to well-worn archetypes, the plot is formulaic, good and evil tends to be rather manichean… it’s fun to read but there’s something mindless about it, as if you can close your eyes and you can tell what’s going to happen. C. S. Forester’s books had a somewhat formulaic quality to them in the first place, and Weber is not quite as good a writer as Forester was, for all his skill at action scenes.

    I do recall having a lot of fun reading the first few books, but somewhere around the time Rob S. Pierre made his appearance Weber’s writing chops could no longer hide the plotting inadequacies. I never hated the books, I just got bored with them.

    • thebookgator says:

      Very interesting and thoughtful comment. I never read it way back when, but had the impression it is a classic series. Agree that there is something decent there, even if it is a love of a certain trope–I’m happy with female captain beats the odds. It is surprising to me that he’s so in love with his imaginary reasoning that he keeps doing the info-dumping. I wondered if there were strong naval/war metaphors that I was not catching.

      • neotiamatt says:

        There definitely are! Space Opera in general tends to steal a lot from the Age of Sail approach to naval combat, but Weber’s weird tech (the fact that you can’t attack head-on, etc) is designed to replicate Napoleonic-era naval combat very closely. Naval tactics of the era are interesting and quite complex, since a ship could only move forward, but cannon was concentrated along the sides — so the whole trick of a combat was to somehow present your side to the enemy while keeping them from doing the same. Add in wind and the fact that salvos are absolutely devastating, and it turns into very much a war of maneuver. I suspect it’s remained popular because it’s a kind of fighting that is definitely modern, but also involves a great deal of cunning and skill, so a small and weak ship can in fact defeat a bigger one.

      • thebookgator says:

        Ah, that directly plays into the Basilisk station plot. Thank you! I suspected there was some overtext I was missing.

  2. You gave it the exact same rating I did. It did not convince me to read any of the sequels.

  3. “a kick-ass woman in the royal navy that has the ice-queen routine down pat. except for her empathetic cat–i said, stop it”

    Omg, I was laughing so hard.

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